The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest (BLFC), established in 1982 by English Professor Scott Rice at San Jose State University, recognizes the worst opening sentence (also known as an “incipit”) for a novel. The name of the quasi-literary contest honors Edward George Bulwer Lytton, author of a very obscure 1830 Victorian novel, Paul Clifford, with a very famous opening sentence: “It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents—except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.”
Each year, contest receives more than 10,000 entries from all over the world — proving that there is no shortage of wretched writers vying for acclaim. The contest now has several subcategories, including adventure, crime, romance, and detective fiction. The winner gets bragging rights for writing the worst sentence of the year and a modest financial award of $150 — presumably for writing lessons.
The winner of the 2015 BLFC was Joel Phillips of West Trenton, New Jersey who submitted this dreadful opening sentence:
Seeing how the victim’s body, or what remained of it, was wedged between the grill of the Peterbilt 389 and the bumper of the 2008 Cadillac Escalade EXT, officer “Dirk” Dirksen wondered why reporters always used the phrase “sandwiched” to describe such a scene since there was nothing appetizing about it, but still, he thought, they might have a point because some of this would probably end up on the front of his shirt.
The runner up was submitted by Grey Harlowe of Salem, Oregon:
“We can’t let the dastards win,” said Piper Bogdonovich to her fellow gardener, Mr. Sidney Beckworth Hammerstein, as she clenched her gloved hands into gnarly, fuzzed fists, “because if I have to endure another year after which my Royal Puffin buttercups come in second place to Marsha Engelstrom’s Fainting Dove Tear Drop peonies, I will find a machine gun and leave my humanity card in the Volvo.”
In the category of Vile Puns, these three writers battled it out for punniest sentence:
Mark McGivern (Albert Lea, MN): As James King, detective in the Queens branch of the NYPD stared at the rooks pecking at the disheveled corpse of Bishop Robert Knight in the alley behind the pawn shop, he checked for his mates.
Matthew Pfeifer (Beaman IA): Old Man Dracula forgot to put his teeth in one night, and so had to come home hungry, with a sort of “nothing dentured, nothing veined” look on his face.
Owen Roberts (Edina, MN): Sherlock Holmes brusquely dismissed his companion’s theory that the victim had died from an allergic reaction to either seasoning or seafood, saying “Watson, although the problem is alimentary, it is neither the Thyme nor the Plaice.”
Read related posts: The Worst Sentence Ever Written
The Worst Sentence Ever Written: 2014
The Best Sentences in English Literature
Best Books for Word Lovers
Best Books for Writers
Most Famous Quotations in British Literature
For futher reading: bulwer-lytton.com/2015win.html
Dark and Stormy Rides Again by Scott Rice, Penguin Books (1996)